Alpe d’Huez takes over La Grave lease

22nd May 2017, by Abi Butcher

La Grave is known for its steep, wild

La Grave is known for its steep, wild "sauvage" terrain. Pic: Matt Carr

The future of French ski resort La Grave, legendary among experts for its steep and wild terrain, looks more secure following an agreement with nearby Alpe d’Huez.

On 11 May, the Société d’Aménagement Touristique de l’Alpe d’Huez (SATA) signed a contract with the mayor of La Grave to take over the lease on its two-stage “pulse” gondola and largely unpisted ski terrain, with an agreement that goes some way to ending years of concern over the resort’s future. SATA was the last company standing after Compagnie des Alpes (which owns the nearby Les Deux-Alpes) pulled out on 13 March.

La Grave enjoys a cult status among expert skiers — it has around 500 visitor beds and just one lift serving a high, wild and almost entirely off-piste mountainside.

Read Where to Ski and Snowboard’s review of La Grave.

The SATA-La Grave agreement was signed on 5 May and details were made public last Tuesday, 16 May. SATA has paid €100,000 for a 30-year lease on the lift and ski terrain which it will take over on 15 June. Under the terms of the €70,000-per-year lease,  SATA has agreed build a new gondola to more or less replace the drag lift that runs from the existing top station at 3,200m to the top of the glacier (and ski area) at 3,600m. The existing mountain restaurants and reception area will also be renovated.

“The aim is to keep attracting good skiers, but also a larger summer clientele (hikers, mountaineers, mountain bikers as well as those who want to see the view and the glacier),” says a statement released by La Grave.

The major of La Grave, a veteran mountain guide and proponent of “ski sauvage” has ensured that SATA preserve the essence of the resort, that below 3,200m no pistes can be built and retaining his accountability for any accidents on the mountain. SATA will keep existing employees and “lift prices will not increase significantly for the moment”.

SATA has declined to comment on any plans to incorporate La Grave with its plans to link Alpe d’Huez and Les Deux-Alpes by gondola in 2021.

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